5 Tips to Connecting With Your Kids Through Nature Play

  • The first thing to do (before you’ve even left the house) is to make sure you’ve got the right gear. This means (in addition to the usual waterproof coats, warm jackets/jumpers, hats + gloves) – waterproof trousers or trousers that it doesn’t matter if they get muddy (for both of you). This is such an important part of the process, as it changes the whole feel of the occasion from being a walk in the woods (observational and passive) into a play activity (experiential). And don’t forget to take a flask of hot chocolate or soup and something to munch on that will keep your little one fuelled up and happy to keep going!
  • Decide in advance what activities you’re going to offer. I know this sounds a bit structured, but again, it can make all the difference in the world. Until you’ve got a few repeat performances under your belt, you’ll be needing resources and knowledge of how to make it happen. It doesn’t take long before you don’t need to pre-plan quite so much, but it’s always worth trying out new ones quite regularly – a bit like finding new recipes for dinner, it can get boring if you keep eating beans on toast!
  • Whatever activities and games you play, try to avoid intervening too quickly with help or advice. Obviously you’ll need to explain the game plan, but if your child decides to improvise or adapt the rules, don’t be too hasty to correct them. After all, it’s only a game, and if it goes wrong, this will spark off an interesting discussion – this is where you start to connect with them, so don’t be in a rush to sort it out – let them do it!
  • Be willing to follow their lead – if they want to be the head honcho, accept the servant’s role gracefully. Remember this is about connection, and play should be on their terms, not an adult’s. You are being invited into their world so respect their requests and expectations of ‘play protocol’, even if they don’t appear to make sense!
  • Finally, make sure all communication is positive and empowering. What do I mean by this? Well, obviously avoid comments like “This is a daft game” or “We’re always playing this game – can’t we play something else?”. If there is a conflict or they need to re-enact a dispute they’ve seen somewhere, let them lead with it and don’t try to trivialise its importance. That way they maintain control and the direction of the activity – these ‘games’ are hugely important lifeskills lessons, and you’ve been honoured to be part of them. When you’re ‘playing their games’, let them be in charge – that’s the very best you can do!

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